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De Gregorio helps keep Olympic in the hunt

At 34 years old, with a young daughter and a growing pizzeria business on his plate, former All White Raf de Gregorio could be excused for quietly hanging up his boots.

But the combative midfielder is still in love with football and was in the thick of things at Newtown Park yesterday as defending Central League champions Olympic got their wobbly defence back on track with a 5-2 romp against last-placed Palmerston North Marist.

Young striker Luciano Calucci, who has recently stepped up from the reserve team, scored a first-half hat-trick and midfielder Jimmy Haidakis added a brace as `the Greeks' erased the memory of their shock first-round Chatham Cup loss to Wellington United.

With two losses and two draws from the first seven rounds, Olympic were in danger of falling off the pace but yesterday's win keeps them fourth as the league settles into two groups.

The top four is headed by Miramar Rangers (18 points) with Wairarapa United and Western Suburbs (both 15), as well as Olympic (14), snapping at their heels.

"Last year we were really consistent which was good because the Greek sides over the years, we've not been so consistent," de Gregorio said.

"So coming into this season, we hoped we'd do the same thing. We've had a few hiccups but it's good to get back on track and we're still in the hunt.

"When you have some success, sometimes you come to expect it rather than wanting to win it. So I think it's a good learning curve for us, we're a club that wants to establish itself as being a successful club."

Last season was a two-horse race between Olympic and Miramar but there is a more even spread of talent throughout the league this year.

"It was difficult because you had teams that just wanted to defend," de Gregorio said.

"But this year it's a bit closer. We've lost a few important players with injury but a young kid, Luciano, came in and got a hat-trick in the first half so you can't ask for more really.

"I still love to play, I'm quite a fierce competitor but with my business and my young daughter, life is getting pretty busy and it's going to take a bit of time out of my footy."

Elsewhere, Petone and Maycenvale United drew their match 1-1, Ryan Cain's goal helped Wests lift the O'Brien Shield off Tawa in a 1-0 win, Napier City Rovers upset Lower Hutt 2-0 and Miramar beat Wairarapa 2-1 in their top-of-the- table clash.

The Dominion Post - Sam Worthington

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